If you're wondering why the Department of Justice has been paging through two months' worth of various Associated Press journalists' phone records, you have to cast your mind back to the Spring of 2012.
Back then, the news was brimming with all sorts of exciting stories on the national security front. The AP reported in May that the CIA had "thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner" using "an upgrade of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009." And The New York Times, in June, reported that President Barack Obama had "secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities."
The AP story, to the minds of critics, offered al Qaeda insight into the fact that the CIA was aware of the group's activities. And the Times reporting on the U.S./Israeli cyber war with Iran was full of details that had never previously been disclosed.
The timing of these disclosures seemed rather suspicious to Republicans, 31 of whom sent Attorney General Eric Holder a letter asking him to "immediately appoint a special counsel to investigation [sic] national-security leaks from the executive branch," The Hill reported.
“The numerous national-security leaks reportedly originating out of the executive branch in recent months have been stunning,” they wrote to Holder.
“If true, they reveal details of some of our nation’s most highly classified and sensitive military and intelligence matters, thereby risking our national security, as well as the lives of American citizens and our allies. If there were ever a case requiring an outside special counsel with bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, this is it,” they wrote.
The upshot was that the GOP believed Obama was using strategic leaks to burnish his national security cred in an election year. (This was not an unreasonable thing to infer, frankly.)
But, with that in mind, Alex Pareene makes a similarly reasonable judgment that the GOP will probably not be too quick to jump on this DOJ probe of the Associated Press writing, "It will be hard (but not impossible!) for Republicans to act hugely upset and offended about this one."
Good thing he tossed in that "but not impossible" qualifier! Because as Zeke Miller and Michael Crowley report, Republicans are going to give it a go:
“Whether it is secretly targeting patriotic Americans participating in the electoral progress [sic] or reporters exercising their First Amendment rights, these new revelations suggest a pattern of intimidation by the Obama Administration,” Doug Heye, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said in a statement to TIME. “The First Amendment is first for a reason,” added Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “If the Obama Administration is going after reporters’ phone records, they better have a damned good explanation.”
Miller and Crowley note that this is "a particularly surprising response." Not if you're relentlessly cynical! Otherwise, yes.
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